Bus drivers operate buses and drive passengers along local, chartered or intercity routes.
Bus drivers usually earn
$21-$24 an hour
Source: Tranzurban, 2020.
Pay for bus drivers varies depending on experience, where and how many hours they work, and what type of bus they drive.
- Entry-level bus drivers usually earn between minimum wage and $22 an hour.
- Experienced bus drivers can earn between $22 and $24 an hour.
Pay for tour coach drivers varies depending on whether they work full time, or are contractors or seasonal workers.
Sources: Tranzurban and Kiwi Experience, 2020.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Bus drivers may do some or all of the following:
- visually inspect buses before driving them to make sure they are safe, clean, refuelled and ready for use
- load and unload passengers' luggage
- collect fares from passengers, giving them tickets and change
- give passengers information on routes, fares and timetables
- deliver a commentary on the area they are travelling through and answer passengers' questions
- keep a logbook to record work time and rest breaks.
Skills and knowledge
Bus drivers need to have:
- excellent driving skills
- knowledge of the Road Code and transport regulations
- knowledge of the area they work in, the correct bus routes, and the correct fares
- the ability to operate Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology, and multi-function ticketing systems
- understanding of basic bus maintenance
- knowledge of sites and attractions along their route, and New Zealand culture and history.
- usually work shifts, including nights and weekends. Many urban bus drivers work split shifts, usually during peak morning and afternoon periods with unpaid time off in the middle
- spend most of their time in buses and at bus depots
- have to drive in all weather conditions
- travel between cities and towns if they operate tour coaches or intercity buses, and may have to spend time away from home.
What's the job really like?
A rewarding job
Lance Schaffer leads a double life – full-time university student, part-time bus driver. At just 20 years of age, he has more responsibility than most people.
“Driving such a large vehicle is exhilarating, especially driving urban buses through narrow city streets. The responsibility behind it is quite fulfilling.”
Lance also enjoys the meaningful interactions he has with the public.
“It’s crazy, but people confide in you even though you’re just an ordinary bus driver. You get to hear their life stories.”
With bus drivers having to interact with members of the public, Lance highlights how important it is to maintain an open mind.
“You’re always dealing with a wide range of people – they might be living on the streets or in upper-class homes, or be immigrants or tourists who speak different languages. You can’t be judgemental. You’ve just got to deal with each challenging situation as it comes.”
A career worth considering
Lance’s advice for anyone thinking of becoming a bus driver is simple.
“Just do it! A lot of people assume they can’t do it because they’re scared of driving such a large vehicle. But you get trained and put through lots of processes. They’re not going to let you out on the road without showing you how to do it properly. It’s a really enjoyable job, so just give it a go!"
Bus driver video
Lance talks about what it’s like to be a bus driver – 5.04 mins.
As a Bus Driver you're responsible for your city. Getting your citizens from point A to point B safely and comfortably.
In our urban operation we've got casual options, part-time options and full-time options. As a part-timer myself, I build my day going to work in the morning, working from five till roughly nine o'clock and then I’ll end my day there. In the morning I’ll arrive at the depot, go get my cash box, make sure I’m ready to go and head to the operations counter to see the supervisor and get my shift card. Then I get my bus, I give it a quick but thorough pre-service check and then I’ll head out for the day.
Your shift card is made up of multiple runs at multiple different locations for the day. You might have heaps of short runs or you might have one or two long runs until you break and then you'll resume your trips. I love driving a bus because you do have some passenger interaction so you don't get too bored or lonely.
Cheers, thank you.
And you get to drive a large vehicle in a tight city. The challenges that it brings. I really, really, really enjoy that. At the end of the day once you've finished your final trip you make your way back to the depot, notify the yardman if there are any faults with the bus, fuel up, sign out of your ticket machine, cash all of your money in that you've collected for the day and then once you've done all that, chuck cash box and your locker until the next morning.
The roster is generated some weeks in advance so you can plan your weeks. Some weeks you might have a Thursday and Friday off, some others you might have a Saturday Sunday off so they do vary. Stuff can always be worked around and suited to your schedule. All it takes is friendly conversation between you and your operations supervisor. As long as you maintain those good relationships it's all easy.
To be a Bus Driver you need some good communication skill and good patience.
Whereabouts are you off to?
People might take things out on you that isn't totally your fault. You just need to be calm and think things through before you say something or before you try fit a bus through a tight gap. It's not easy all the time but as long as you just stop take two seconds and figure it out you should be all good. Obviously these are large vehicles so if you're not very spatially aware in your smaller car, then you might have a bit of difficulty driving one of these larger vehicles. I think as well having that good communication skill, interaction skill, being good at customer service, it's all going to help you with a career in bus driving.
So you need a heavy vehicle's license to drive a bus. A minimum of a class two license. To do that you've got to sit a driver test and then you'll get your learners for a class two, complete the training with your driver trainer, sit a course that will then give you a certificate that you can go and cash in for your class two full license. To jump up from that you're required to have a class four license to drive a double decker or any vehicle over eighteen tons and once again it's very similar, you complete the training with your driver trainer and then you'll once again receive another certificate after completing a certified course and you can go out and get your class four full. As well as requiring a heavy vehicle license as a bus driver you are legally required to hold a P endorsement, which is a passenger endorsement and the NZTA are required to background check you and make sure you've got no infringement, criminal history etc.
There are employers that pay for you to get your heavy vehicle licences. So I’m incredibly lucky. Tranzurban paid for me as a part-timer to go and get my licenses as well as putting me through that training. Recently I was appointed to a new position as an Operations Supervisor and I think a lot of people don't realise in this type of industry, that there is potential for career progression. I'm only twenty one and now responsible for ensuring that drivers feel safe coming to work, ensuring that they know what they're doing, have the right shifts, getting paid correctly and that has new responsibility and new challenges that I enjoy facing.
Prior to driving a bus I thought driving an urban bus would be quite monotonous and boring. I thought you'd be doing the same trips over and over again but it's really not. Whether it be the place and the tight streets, the people, the weather, it's always varied and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.
To become a bus driver you need to have held a clean Class 1 driver’s licence (a car licence) for two years.
Depending on the size of bus you want to drive, you also need a Class 2 or Class 4 driver’s licence.
You must also have a valid passenger (P) endorsement on your licence, which shows you can carry passengers. This involves:
- passing a medical exam, including an eyesight test
- a background check, to ensure you are a “fit and proper person”
Most bus companies provide driver training for license classes and usually pay drivers in training.
- New Zealand Transport Agency website - requirements for driving a passenger service vehicle
- New Zealand Transport Agency website - bus driver licensing requirements
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, maths, and construction and mechanical technologies to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Bus drivers need to be:
- understanding of people from different cultures and backgrounds
- able to remain calm under pressure
- honest and reliable
- good at basic maths
- good at communicating
- friendly, polite and patient
Useful experience for bus drivers includes:
- other driving work, such as taxi driving
- customer service work
- work in the tourism industry.
Bus drivers need to:
- be reasonably fit and healthy to get a medical certificate every five years
- have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
- have good hearing.
Find out more about training
- Bus and Coach Association (NZ)
- (04) 499 7334 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.busandcoach.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
High demand for urban bus drivers
There is high demand for bus drivers in urban areas. There are regular job vacancies because workers usually only stay in the role for a short time.
With COVID-19 affecting the tourism industry, there is currently low demand for tour coach drivers.
According to the Census, 8,874 bus drivers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Approach employers directly
It's a good idea to contact companies directly about bus driver jobs. Most major bus companies are always recruiting.
Types of employers varied
Bus drivers can work for a range of employers, including:
- large companies that run urban and intercity buses
- local companies that run school buses or tour coaches.
- Abbott, J, secretary transport logistics & manufacturing division, First Union, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2020.
- MacManus, J, 'Five hours without a rest ‘unsafe’ for Wellington bus drivers and passengers', Stuff, 14 March 2020.
- Neilson, M, 'Bus strike: Auckland drivers take action on Friday after breakdown in mediation over pay, hours', NZ Herald, 12 March 2020.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Bus drivers may progress to work as:
- supervisors or managers at bus companies
- bus inspectors
- bus driving instructors.
Bus drivers may specialise in driving:
- set routes and timetables, school bus routes, or long-distance intercity routes
- charter buses taking passengers on one-off trips such as to functions or events
- tour coaches taking passengers on local or long-distance tours.
Last updated 1 April 2022